Get a Link – Get a Break!

getalink-brokenchocolate2As I am writing help materials for our new intranet I do not only have to think about “HOW do you do this” but also “WHY would you do this” and “How can you do this BEST, without spending too much time, adding maintenance or messing things up?”

With the migration of content to the new platform, many Site Owners need to rework their publishing pages. Generally these pages contain (clickable) header images, Promoted Links, Summary Links and links in the text.

On the old platform, when you want to grab the link to a document or image, you go to the library, right click on the name and select “Copy Shortcut” from the pop up. This is no longer available in SharePoint Online.

So, how does one get a link in SharePoint Online?

I have found 3 ways to link to a document, page or image:

  1. In Summary Links as well as the Rich Text Editor on a page (Wiki page style), you can browse for the link to a document or image that lives in your site or site collection.
    getalink-insertlink
    Insert > Link > From SharePoint will allow you to browse the libraries and lists in your site and link to the desired content.

    getalink-summarylinks
    When creating Summary Links you can browse for the content in your site.
  2. You can open the item and grab the URL from the address bar.
  3. There is the new Get a Link option, which you will see when you select a document or image from a library, in the Action Bar (is that what it’s called?) and the pop up menu.
    getalink-actionbar
    The Action Bar shows the Get a Link option when you select an item

    getalink-actionbar-gif-popup
    When you click the … behind an item name, you will see this in the pop up

The users in my company are all accustomed to grabbing a link when they want to share a document via email or on Yammer, so I think this “Get a Link” will appeal to them.

However, at first glance I see 5 different options. What to select?

getalink-options
5 options to Get a Link? Please note that the “no sign-in required” options can be disabled by the tenant administrator. This allows you to share links with anyone, in and outside of your company.

Let’s find out how this works!

Microsoft has already written about this but it is not very detailed.
So, I have created a brand new site in my own tenant. In this site I have uploaded 5 documents, each named after the action I will take.

getalink-documents

I assume the file type is irrelevant so I have used a mix of Excel, Word and PowerPoint.

Please note I am the tenant admin, so I am not a normal Site Owner. Some things may work differently for a regular Site Owner with Full Control.

My tenant is almost out-of-the-box and external and anonymous sharing has been enabled on all site collections.

How to use Get a Link:

  1. Select the document and click “Get a Link”
  2. Select one of the 5 options
  3. Click “Create” (if the link has already been created earlier you will immediately see “copy”
  4. Click “Copy” and the link will be added to your clipboard
  5. Paste wherever you need it.

You can remove a link if you longer want to share. This means the link will be disabled if someone clicks on it.

For links with “no sign-in required” you can set an expiration date. This means the link will no longer work if someone clicks on it after the expiration date.

getalink-expirationdate
For “anonymous sharing” you can set an expiration time.

Results

  1. The links look as follows:

Restricted link:

https://company.com/Sharing/Shared%20Documents/GetLink-RestrictedLink.pptx?d=wa1065f209e79474cb70b1d349a3d5c1c

View Link – account required:

https://company.com/Sharing/_layouts/15/guestaccess.aspx?guestaccesstoken=g5GzCR4X%2bSQeQkoUVxhvy6ObgkIgAOAwWPxUubf%2bNlY%3d&docid=2_061f40460a0bb4a509b5f126109e2f28e&rev=1

View Link – no sign-in required

https://company.com/Sharing/_layouts/15/guestaccess.aspx?docid=0d7dc303b58164d169fe1e15c05981740&authkey=Acc4tb7-2Nb5GYqUQPj4Oy0

Edit Link – account required

https://company.com/Sharing/_layouts/15/guestaccess.aspx?guestaccesstoken=OygCzI%2f3Nkr8YKUhpYNPucCNr3H7x4zTfJowLrST0lI%3d&docid=2_17f6bad80545a42428c32907a3503e6f4&rev=1

Edit Link – no sign-in required

https://company.com/Sharing/_layouts/15/guestaccess.aspx?docid=11bf22e7919224e2987caf7ea39f9f4f5&authkey=AReBJ-AIIrhwFnuFeCqR1e

2. Using the “View” and “Edit” links will break permission inheritance for the document as soon as you hit “Create”.

getalink-what
Pardon my French, but what did you just write there?

Yes, you may want to read this again:

Using the “View” and “Edit” links will break permission inheritance for the document as soon as you hit “Create”.

I was a bit worried about the word “guest_access” that I saw appearing in 4 of the 5 links, so I decided to check the permissions of my site.
Microsoft mentions this in the small letters of their post, but it is easily overlooked.

You know you can now see immediately if you have items with different permissions in your site. That is very convenient. Normally, only the Microfeed has different permissions, but now my Documents have too!

getalink-brokenpermissions
The document library has “exceptions”. That means: some items have different permissions.
getalink-4outof5
Only the “Restricted Link” does not break permission inheritance!

4 of the 5 docs have broken permissions inheritance! The permissions have not changed yet, but the inheritance has broken. This may not appear to be a big deal now, but if you ever happen to add a new group or individual to your site, which is not unlikely, you will have to remember to give them access to these documents.
Do you seriously think any Site Owner will remember this? Or have the time for that?

More scary and inconvenient findings

  • As soon as someone clicks on a link they are added to the permissions of the document, regardless of their existing role in the site.
getalink-added-after-clicking
I am the tenant admin, and have Full Control of this site, yet I am added as soon as I click the link.
  • People in the Members group get all the options for “Get a Link” as well!
    I have tested this in my work environment and it turns out Members can see and use the “view” and “edit” options so they can break the permission inheritance of documents without the Site Owner being aware!
  • You can only find out which links have been created by checking the options for each document. Click “remove” if you see that an unwanted link has already been created. Now go find out which of your links (In a text, in Summary Links etc.) used this link 😦
  • You can remove the link, but the permission inheritance is still broken.
  • You can only “delete unique permissions”  per document, so you have to go to Site settings > Site permissions > Show items with different permissions > View Exceptions > Manage permissions > Delete unique permissions.
    This is a tedious process.

I think this can turn into a serious issue. I have found that many Site Owners do not fully understand the consequences of broken permission inheritance, and do not understand the extra maintenance and support issues involved. I have tried to tell them NOT to break permission inheritance unless it is really needed, and to never do this on a document or item level.
And even if they know, it is a time-consuming job to reset the permissions.

Also, why all this complexity for just getting a link? I think only the “Restricted link” would be sufficient. Who would ever want to use the “edit” options when linking to an image? Why would you use the “Get a Link” option to share via email if there is also a “Share” option which sends an email? (and which, in some cases, asks permissions to the Site Owner first?)

What would I recommend if you need a link?

  • Use the “Insert > Link > From SharePoint” option to link to a document or image when working in the text editor of a page
  • Use the “Browse” option when creating Summary Links
  • Use “Get a Link > Restricted View” when you want to get a link otherwise. This respects the permissions of your library.
  • Instruct your site Members about the dangers of Get a Link and ask them to use the Restricted Link.

What are your experiences with the Get a Link functionality? Have you been able to reduce the scope and if yes, how? I would appreciate to hear and learn from you!

Kitten image courtesy of Top Photo Engineer at FreeDigitalPhotos.net. Text added by myself.

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7 thoughts on “Get a Link – Get a Break!

  1. Anita March 21, 2017 / 4:57 pm

    I don’t mind that you’ve reinvented the wheel. People are not that used to look for answer on “the outside” apparently. They always look at me with surprise when I search on the internet for them (they always come and ask me “how do you…” as they expect me to have all that in my head haha)

    Did you have to take this course yourself, Ellen? I had to – and I’m still not over that waste of time – made us lose place in batch 5. A tiered course would have been good. It’s good with enforcing people to take a course but some thinking behind is also good.

    • Ellen van Aken March 21, 2017 / 5:52 pm

      Hi Anita, of course I have done the training myself. I am also a site owner.

  2. Sev (@sevdegueldre) March 28, 2017 / 4:32 pm

    Man man, SharePoint online change a lot of things for permissions O.O
    Thank you for your article and your blog !
    I do not use SharePoint online so I was curious to learn about the differences.

  3. LeftieAube March 31, 2017 / 5:57 pm

    There is a way to solve this problem, so that the only option is “Restricted Link”. It’s on the 69th diapositive in this presentation : https://fr.slideshare.net/bobbyschang/sharepoint-permissions-worst-practices 😀

    By the way, thank you so much for this post; I had a bunch of broken inheritance that I didn’t know about (just from my tests with the links…).

    Thank you! I love your blog; it helps me so much with my new job 🙂

    • Ellen van Aken March 31, 2017 / 6:23 pm

      Thank you for your feedback! Glad to be of help. I am currently experimenting with some settings in Site Settings > Site Permissions > Access Requests. There are two checkboxes there (weird place!) that appear to determine the sharing options. It is hard for me to check, since I am the only person in my tenant, but I believe unchecking those boxes shows only the “Restricted Link” to people. Still by default this is on, so you would need to uncheck it on all sites.
      Please check it out and let me know if this works!
      Best regards, Ellen

  4. atiqam May 19, 2017 / 2:16 am

    Thank you so much for such a clear explanation… We have a problem with many corporate forms with broken inheritance, I assume because some content publisher needed a link!!!

    • Ellen van Aken May 19, 2017 / 9:50 am

      Thank you, I am glad it was useful. Stay tuned because I will post some tips to prevent and cure shortly!

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